When a woman is pregnant, there are generally a lot of changes going on the body. As a result, pregnant women experience abdominal pain with the progress of the pregnancy. Usually, there is nothing to worry about. However, in rare cases, abdominal pain may be a symptom of some serious medical condition. Since a pregnant woman is trying to take care of herself as well as the baby, it is essential to know about the types, causes, and treatment of such stomach and abdominal pain.
Pregnancy Cramps – Are They Normal?
The answer is yes. It is quite normal to experience upper stomach pain during pregnancy. A pregnant mother is naturally very concerned about every change she is experiencing in her body. In this case, generally, such cramps are just part of the pregnancy and nothing harmless.
In the early stage of pregnancy, generally lasting till the first twelve weeks or so, the womb in the female body starts to expand. Additionally, the bump in the body starts growing. Various hormonal changes are occurring in the body at that point, as well. Such changes together contribute to the mild pain that is felt in the stomach or abdomen. Generally, the intensity of the pain is mild. The pain even does not stay for long. Slight movement and a little rest are enough to take care of it most of the time.
Sometimes the pain may even feel similar to the period cramps. This is also nothing abnormal, but you can always contact medical personnel when in doubt about anything.
In most of the cases, experiencing abdominal pain during pregnancy is not something you have to worry about. There are various usual causes of it. Some of them are-
- Round Ligament Pain – When this happens, you may feel a dull pain that lingers after movement or a short and sharp pang suddenly during body movement. Two ligaments join the groin to the uterus. In pregnancy, the growth of the uterus takes place. This causes the stretching of the ligaments and causes the round ligament pain. In most cases, pregnant women have found to experience round ligament pain in their second trimester. Usually, there is nothing to worry about in such conditions.
- Pain Due To Constipation & Gas – The levels of progesterone increase in the female body during pregnancy, resulting in constipation and gas. This contributes to the formation of gas. With the rise in progesterone, the working of the gastrointestinal tract gets hindered. As a result, digestion and metabolism get affected. This can also contribute to constipation. To cope with such situations, you should eat foods that contain a lot of fiber and drink lots of water. Additionally, laxatives and exercises can also help in these situations.
- Braxton Hicks Contractions – Braxton Hicks contractions may seem to be a complex medical condition upon hearing the term, but it is nothing hazardous for you to worry about. It is often known as practice contractions, as pregnant women can practice with these contractions to get familiar with the real contractions at the end of pregnancy. The actual contractions also give a very similar feel. However, they are very intense and last for a longer time. With a real contraction, a woman may not be able to stay calm at all, as the pain is very sharp. As for Braxton Hicks contractions, they are slightly less intense, and women can still carry out their day to day activities without any problem. Commonly such contractions are caused by dehydration. So, drinking a lot of water can solve the problem. Read on to know about it in detail.
- Common Discomforts – There are other different types of common discomforts as well, which can lead up to abdominal pain in pregnancy. Generally, anything related to the uterus, stomach, kidney, fibroids, and even foods can cause such discomforts. In any such case, the pain experienced is harmless.
Stomach Pain in Pregnancy – When Should One Report It?
Any pregnant woman can be terrified, even with the slightest feel of an abdominal or stomach pain. The fear of miscarriage is always the first thing to come in mind in such situations. Even though most of the time, the pain is not something to worry about, if you feel something is wrong, contact a doctor immediately.
In case you are experiencing long-lasting stomach pain or cramps, which are prolonged, you should check out the situation, and visiting a doctor is recommended.
Stomach Cramps and Pain – Things to Look Out For During Pregnancy
In most cases, cramps occurring in the stomach or abdomen are harmless. However, in rare cases, severe conditions may have happened. There are some symptoms that a pregnant mother should know to be able to differentiate between critical and usual symptoms and take steps accordingly.
Given below are some symptoms of severe medical conditions. If you experience any such similar symptoms, get immediate treatment from a doctor.
- Pain is felt on one side of the lower stomach during early pregnancy
One of the indications of such pain can be an ectopic pregnancy. There are various other symptoms, as well. Some of them are bleeding, feeling pain in the shoulder tip, brown discharge, feeling dizzy and weak, and having discomfort during excretion.
- Prolonged intense stomach cramps that may or may not be accompanied with bleeding
This is likely due to placental abruption or miscarriage.
- Cramps & Contractions happening regularly before 37 weeks of pregnancy
This is one of the signs of having premature labor. It is generally accompanied by increased vaginal discharge, unusual backache, intense cramps, and sudden pressure felt in the stomach or pelvis.
- Prolonged strong stomach pain
Placental abruption may cause such pain. It is generally accompanied by a tender stomach and back pains, which may or may not come with bleeding.
- Upper stomach pain
In pregnancy, a lot of women experience pain under the ribs. This happens because, with the growth of the uterus, the ribs get pushed. So usually, it is not something you should worry about. However, in rare cases, it may indicate preeclampsia. The signs include prolonged intense pain occurring on the right side, sudden swelling of feet, hands or face, dull or strong prolonged headaches, blurry vision, and a tendency to vomit. Usually, preeclampsia develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy period.
- Dull back pain or pain in the lower stomach
This is mainly a sign indication of infection occurring in the urinary tract. Even though this condition is not an immediate emergency, it still should be treated as fast as possible. The other symptoms of urinary tract infection include increased urges to urinate, discomfort while urinating, raised body temperature, bloody or smelly urine, and feeling to vomit often.
Other Kinds of Expected Stomach Pains
- Braxton Hicks Contractions
As stated before, Braxton Hicks contractions are generally a sign of womb muscles tightening. This generates a feeling of contractions, which are somewhat similar to the real contractions. Such practice contractions occur typically in the later pregnancy period. Some symptoms of Braxton Hicks contractions are that the contractions occur irregularly, they last for a short time and are more like uncomfortable than severe pain.
In Braxton Hick’s contractions, you need not be worried about anything. If the contractions become more painful and start occurring more frequently, then medical help is recommended.
As for the cramps and contractions that occur near the 40th week of pregnancy, it may well be the signs of the early labor stages. Known as the latent phase of labor, a pregnant woman can make her mind prepared to be a mother soon when this occurs.
Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy – When Is It Serious?
Normally, abdominal pain during pregnancy is not a severe issue. There are various natural causes for it, and women are found to have perfect and healthy deliveries. However, in rare cases, abdominal pain may impose some severe medical conditions, which can be harmful to both the mother and the baby. Medical care is needed in such serious cases. Some of the serious medical conditions that can cause abdominal pain are given below.
- Ectopic Pregnancy – Occurring rarely, with 2% of pregnant women going through it, ectopic pregnancy can be fatal. This happens when the implantation of the egg is done in the fallopian tubes or anywhere outside instead of the uterus. In such cases, the growth of the egg stretches the fallopian tubes, and the woman feels tremendous pain. If not removed, the fallopian tubes may even burst, causing permanent damage to the woman. In any case, ectopic pregnancy cannot be continued and needs to be removed by doctors. For the women who undergo ectopic pregnancy, intense pain may be felt between the 6th and the 10th week of pregnancy, associated with bleeding. Women are more prone to ectopic pregnancy if they have experienced it before. Women who have undergone tubal ligation, endometriosis, or had IUD or intrauterine device during conception, have a higher chance of ectopic pregnancy.
- Placental Abruption – This is one of the most severe conditions which can be faced by a pregnant woman, and it can even turn out to be life-threatening. In this condition, the placenta is separated from the uterus before the birth of the baby. One of the most common symptoms of placental abruption is when prolonged pains are experienced in the stomach with hardening of the stomach muscles. Premature breakage of water and bloody fluid discharge is another sign of it. Other than these, fluid discharge, pain in the back, and increased tenderness in the abdomen are symptoms of placental abruption as well.
- Miscarriage – Miscarriage is probably the worst nightmare of an expecting woman. In this case, the pregnancy is not successful, and almost 20% of pregnancies worldwide end up in it. In most cases, miscarriage occurs in the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy period. Miscarriage symptoms include actual contractions, back pain, cramps associated with or without bleeding, and passing of a clot or tissue from the vagina. When miscarriage occurs, all the other signs of pregnancy are suddenly decreased.
- Urinary Tract Infection – During the pregnancy period, the urinary tract infection can be easily treated, and it is nothing to worry about much. However, it should not be ignored at any cost, as complications may arise in the future. The main indication of urinary tract information is discomfort while urinating. Pain in the lower abdomen can also be caused by it. In serious cases, urinary tract information can affect the kidneys, as well. Immediate medical help is required in such cases. Other symptoms include lower back pain, body pain, pain under the ribs, and above the pelvic bone, which are mainly accompanied by sweating, fever, chills, and nausea.
- Preeclampsia – In this condition, pregnant women tend to find high levels of protein in their urine associated with high blood pressure as well. The common symptoms of preeclampsia include pain in the upper abdomen and pain in the right side of the portion under the ribs. Some other symptoms are vomiting, nausea, and feeling increased abdominal pressure.
In all such conditions described above, pregnant women are advised to seek medical help as soon as possible. In any case, if the pain is persistent and intense, if it is associated with bleeding, it should not be taken lightly. If lightheadedness, fever, nausea, or weakness is felt, it is advised to get a doctor to look at the current condition.
Abdominal and Stomach Pain during Pregnancy – Extended Details
As already stated before, the majority of pregnant women undergo upper stomach pain during pregnancy. Most of the time, it happens due to the usual causes, and there are no complications that can pose harm to the baby or mother.
By the third trimester of the pregnancy period, dealing with such pains may become very hectic. A pregnant woman has already a lot to deal with. Having to tackle all such issues at once can be very exhausting, both physically and mentally.
Since pregnancy is associated with such pains, it is very reasonable for pregnant women to be very concerned with such pain. Even though regular pregnancy pains are harmless, advice of doctors should always be taken when in doubt.
During the times of pregnancy, the hormonal distribution in the female body is changed significantly. Such sudden changes can cause the feeling of vomiting, nausea, and dizziness associated with fever or sickness. The regular pains in the abdomen or stomach those happen during pregnancy are generally short-lasting. By the 20th week of pregnancy, such pregnancy pains are supposed to go away. However, many pregnant women have said that abdominal pain due to pregnancy returns by the third trimester again. This happens as the growing uterus pushes various organs on its way. Some women can even physically feel when the stretching of their stomach takes place. Such pain is also associated with heartburns. All such cases are normal generally.
However, symptoms that can lead to underlying medical conditions are also observed in rare cases. Some of the severe symptoms that should not be ignored are-
- Excessive itching
- Sudden and intense pain
- Pain is constant
- Pain is felt in a particular location
- Pain is associated with heavy fever, nausea and excess vomiting
- Pain is accompanied by excessive vaginal bleeding
Pregnancy Pain in Abdomen – Most Common Causes
As for the normal harmless pain which is associated with pregnancy, there can be several causes. The serious cases where the condition can be critical are already mentioned before. Given below are the details of the most common causes, which can cause a harmless abdomen or stomach pain during pregnancy.
1. Gas & Constipation
One of the major causes of abdominal pain during pregnancy is due to constipation and gas. As stated before, the hormonal changes are significant during the pregnancy period. This contributed to constipation. The growing uterus also pushes against the uterus, which makes it very difficult for the woman to be able to clear her bowels properly.
Many women have said to experience that their abdomen or upper stomach feels full all of a sudden. This is mainly due to the occurrence of constipation. There are various other symptoms related to this, as well. Along with the restrictions in bowel movement, one may also experience the severe form of gas.
In such conditions, one should include a diet that consists of foods that are rich in fiber. Medication can be taken, but they should always be taken after consultation with a doctor. Laxatives and stool softening medicines can be very helpful in dealing with such cases of constipation.
2. Acid Reflux
With the formation of excessive gas, pregnant women are also known to experience cases of severe heartburns. The symptom of heartburn is one of the most common signs faced by pregnant women, with almost 40% to 45% of pregnant women facing the same. During pregnancy, the secretion of progesterone increases. This causes the formation of gas and directly contributed to heartburn and acid reflux.
Acid reflux is also aggravated by the fact that the growing uterus pushes the digestive tract and puts pressure on it. Even when a pregnant woman is lying down, she may experience acid reflux due to this. Mainly, the pain that is felt in the upper part of the abdomen is due to acid reflux. The pain goes up to the chest, and a burning sensation is felt in the throat. Belching is quite common in such cases.
To counter such situations, pregnant women can take anti-heartburn medications after consulting with a doctor. Meal amounts can be decreased, and diets should consist of less acidic foods. This will help to deal with the acid reflux problem for pregnant women.
3. Stretching Of Skin
A lot of pregnant women have said that they have felt the sensation of the stretching of their skin. With the progress of the pregnancy, the feeling extends to the upper part of the abdomen. In such cases, the skin also feels a little bit of itchy. The skin also feels tighter than usual, and the pain is directed towards the outside of the stomach rather than inside of the abdomen. This pain is directly caused by the stretching of the skin experienced by women during their pregnancy period.
To deal with it, one can apply cold moisturizing lotions, do soft massages, and take mild-warm showers to get some relief.
4. Muscle Strain & Pain
During pregnancy, the muscles situated in the abdomen will be surely going through a lot of stretching to provide the space for the fetus. Towards the second half of the pregnancy, even movement like walking can cause muscular strains, which gives rise to the abdominal pains.
If you are feeling any pain when you are lifting an object or bending down, you may have injured your chest or stomach muscles. Such cases are mainly minor injuries and can be healed with stretching or resting. Seek the help of a doctor if the pain does not go away even after resting.
5. Gallbladder Problems
Problems with the gallbladder can also cause abdominal pains during pregnancy. In case of the pain associated with gallbladder issues, the pain is mainly felt on the right side of the upper abdomen. The part around the ribs is mostly affected.
In case you are feeling a lot of nausea or having a massive tendency to vomit, where the pain is coming in attacks or waves, you may have gallstones. They should be removed in time. If neglected, the bile duct can be blocked by gallstones and cause problems in the liver. In serious cases, the gallbladder needs to be removed as well.
6. 7Liver Problems
The condition cholestasis, or known as IHP or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, is mainly caused by the hormones related to pregnancy. Mostly, the primary symptom in such cases is the sensation of itching. Other symptoms include nausea, yellowing of skin or eyes, vomiting, and upper abdominal pain.
For patients with IHP, doctors are cautious in the examination of the health of the liver. There can be rare severe cases, where the delivery is pushed early to avoid any complications.
The inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. There are various causes of pancreatitis. Some of the most common ones are organ problems due to injuries and infections, especially if the organ in question is either gallbladder or liver. In cases of pancreatitis, women may feel pain in the upper part of the abdomen, observe changes in the stool color, get exhausted quickly, and experience nausea.
If pancreatitis occurs by a serious cause, a woman may even need to stay in hospital. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics or fluids in such cases.
8. Spleen Injury
If a pregnant woman feels upper abdominal pain on the left side, the chances are that her spleen has been injured. Injuries or bruises to the spleen can occur by a blow or smack in the stomach. The spleen can also get ruptured due to infections. In some cases, the spleen has seen to rupture without any proper cause.
The injuries of the spleen can cause sudden and intense pain. Women are likely to feel dizzy and sick. Treatment is required for serious cases, and surgical removal of the spleen is also necessary in some cases.
When the contractions occur, they are mainly initiated in the top part of the uterus. This causes a sensation of tightening, which can be very intense, and the pain increases with time. When such pain is felt, chances are the woman is going into labor.
Such situations require medical help. Emergency treatment is needed if vaginal bleeding occurs with it.
Treatment & Home Remedies for Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy
In any case, a pregnant woman will need to know how to ease abdominal pain during pregnancy. It is always wise to call for a doctor and get professional medical help. However, one can try out some home remedies for immediate ease of the pain. Keep in mind that such home remedies are never a substitute for actual medical treatment. They are just a temporary treatment to get somewhat ease from the painful conditions.
Some of the home remedies for dealing with abdominal pain during pregnancy include-
- Light stretching to get relieved from tension and muscular pain
- Reducing the number of acidic foods in a diet to reduce the chance of heartburn
- Using antacids after discussing with doctors.
- Changing the eating habit to more frequent with smaller amounts
- Massaging the painful area and applying moisturizing lotions and creams
When Should One Call For A Doctor?
When a pregnant woman is unsure about her current condition, consulting a doctor is always helpful. However, specific symptoms should not be ignored at all costs as they may be indicators of some serious medical underlying conditions. Call for a doctor immediately when you have the following symptoms-
- Unbearable pain in the right side of the upper abdomen
- Vaginal bleeding occurring with intense abdominal pain
- Contractions occurring at regular intervals
- Fever associated with severe abdominal pain
- High blood pressure accompanied by headache, dizziness, fatigue and having trouble with breathing
- Yellowing of eyes or skin accompanied by excess vomiting
- Having an excessive sensation to itch
Prevention of Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy
The pains associated with pregnancy cannot be entirely prevented in most cases. However, one can always try to minimize it as much as possible. To do so, one should be aware of how to ease abdominal pain during pregnancy by simple changes in lifestyle.
Doing regular prenatal care is one of the best strategies to avoid and prevent any serious complications related to pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in this regard.
One should try to get a balanced diet, get exercise regularly, and manage the levels of stress to be able to cope up with the pains and aches that occur during pregnancy.
One of the most common conditions faced by pregnant women is to experience abdominal and stomach pains. Even though most of the causes of such pain are harmless, you should always consult a doctor when you feel anything unusual. In case if you are diagnosed with a rare complication, it is still the best to get rid of it as soon as possible. Even if nothing is there, you can get reassured about your current condition and avoid additional stress.